Parental Lying About Children’s Medical Care

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February 3rd, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Being A Good Parent

As parents, we are responsible for caring for our helpless little newborns from birth through growingly capable toddler years all the way up to teenagers and young adults. For some of us, that care extends into adult years as our children encounter severe accidents and illnesses and possibly formerly unimaginable crises.

Sometimes we may sugar-coat an injury or illness to a child, trying to help him or her recover from feeling so badly a little more quickly. We hope the tears might stop a little sooner if we say “that bump doesn’t hurt so much!” when they fall down on the sidewalk and get a little scrape. Amazingly, it often works. Kids learn from their parents to brush off the small injuries, so long as we avoid teaching them that every little malady is a earth-shaking crisis and instead show them that yes, it might hurt, but it will go away faster if we don’t dwell on it.

Some of us have the misfortune of going through divorces or separations. To look out for our kids’ interests, we share custody of our children. Good parents put the children first. Suzy might get sick with the flu, and we share the temperature, medications, and other medical advice with our co-parent. Johnny might break an arm on the playground, and we share the news promptly along with care directions with our co-parent. Or at least most of us would do that, if we truly care about our children.

But Some Parents Can’t Or Won’t Be Good

But not all co-parents do this. Some simply lie about medical care, trying to hide any little problem the children may have. They go so far as to refuse to answer questions about injuries and illnesses, make doctor’s appointments to “prove” the other parent was wrong about an illness, and refuse to pass along medications. When confronted with proof of their egregious behaviors, then they lie even more in the ongoing attempt to over it all up.

Why Lie About Medical Care For Your Children?

What kind of parent would lie about medical care of his or her children who might suffer as a result? What kind of person would cover up infections by refusing to pass along information on doctor’s appointments and prescriptions? What kind of parent would risk her children’s health by failing to pass along antibiotics and then lying about the illness for which they were prescribed? What kind of person would refuse to explain unusual injuries that a child gets to a co-parent who is anxious about what happened and how to keep it from happening again?

At least one answer to these questions is the parent who has a personality disorder or certain other long-term mental illnesses. Pathological lying is typical of the behaviors of many personality disorder victims, particularly those with Borderline Personality Disorder and/or similar illnesses. Another answer to these questions of why is that abusive parents do it to cover up their neglect and abuse against their own children.

Child Abuse And Mental Illness Lead To Bad Parenting

Not surprisingly, abusive parents often have mental illnesses such as personality disorders. Chronic and extreme child abuse often results in children developing serious mental illnesses and becoming child abusers when they have children themselves.

Personality disorders are enduring problems in behavior that generally develop early in life. Possibly they are triggered by environmental reasons, such as child abuse or neglect. Possibly they have genetic causes as some personality disorders and mental illnesses appear to run in families. For whatever reason, these problems often become more evident and pronounced when children arrive in a relationship. This seems to be a trigger point for many mentally ill people, be it for personality disorders such as Borderline Personality Disorder or Narcissistic Personality Disorder or other mental health problems such as Dissociative Identity Disorder and Bipolar Disorder.

Parents who have Borderline Personality Disorder may believe they have to lie to make themselves look like perfect parents with perfect children because their fear of abandonment is so strong and they are paranoid about losing the children. Ironically, their paranoia and lying is more likely to make that the case. Whether it will be because they manage to severely injure or kill their children or because the other parent, CPS, and courts say “enough is enough” and yank custody may be unclear until something really bad happens.

Those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder may feel insecure and therefore want to show they are the better parent and lie both to cover up problems they cause and to falsely attribute problems to the other parent. They may feel they can “prove” the other parent is bad by manipulating doctors with claims the other parent is lying about the illnesses and they are the truth-tellers. Again, these destructive behaviors are likely to eventually backfire on the mentally ill parent. But it may not be before serious harm is done to the children.

Some of the parental liars are doing so to frame their co-parent for illnesses. They may be doing this out of a desire to “own” their children (typical of Borderlines) at any cost, or because of mentally ill desires to paint themselves and the children as victims of you, the parent who is well. They may do this to assist in a child custody battle, for instance.

Other parents are so out of control of their own behaviors that they strike out at their own children through physical violence. They will lie to avoid being caught, charged with child abuse, and prosecuted.

Still other parents may be seeking attention and sympathy, such as victims of Histrionic Personality Disorder. They may fail to comply with treatments or vilify their children’s other parent in hopes of getting the well wishes and attention of others by doing so.

Some parents may intentionally and carefully cause injuries or illnesses to get attention and help establish their “victimhood” to others. Such cases may involve Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSBP), also known as fabricated or induced illness or factitious disorders. If you suspect your child’s other parent is going to the extreme of intentionally planning and executing a plan to injure or making the child ill, regardless of the reasons why, you should immediately seek medical advice and consult a child psychotherapist who may be able to help with the problems. MSBP cases all too often lead to the death of children before the suspect is identified and stopped.

What’s A Good Parent To Do?

All of these kinds of parents are particular dangerously liars. But what are you, the responsible parent or caretaker, supposed to do to correct the situation?

Ideally, you should be able to report these kinds of problems to governmental agencies such as Child Protection Services and the police. But the systems in place for dealing with mentally ill parents are extremely biased and pathetically inept at protecting children or the mentally well parents. The reality is that these agencies often cannot understand what is going on and will blame the wrong person. This is especially the case if you are male and the abusive or neglectful parent is female. Mistaken political propaganda, often from radical feminists, has errantly spread the notion that men are abusers and women and children are victims. The reality is that women cause more physical child abuse than men, and this is well-documented by studies done by reputable institutions. (See Mothers More Likely to Abuse Children than Fathers.) Reality, however, is not enough to persuade CPS and the police to act responsibly. Thus they will tend to “blame the man” even when evidence and statistics say otherwise.

And for those unfortunate women who got stuck with mentally ill husbands? They may have a tough time, too, despite their gender advantage. Consider the example of the male doctor with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. He’s an authority figure, an expert. When he keeps accusing his ex-wife of poisoning the children, people listen to him. His credibility is high. Judges who lack training in psychology, like far too many do, believe him or at least give him the benefit of the doubt because they can’t understand how a doctor could be such an abusive nutcase. It can take years to overcome a situation like that, even for a smart women who is a good mother.

You Need Objective Evidence And Experts

Given this twisted reality, you are going to need 3rd party experts involved to get the government to pay attention and not blame you. Even that may not be enough. If you are in such a situation with a mentally ill co-parent whom you believe to be dishonest about the medical care of children, then any and every time you find your child with an inexplicable or unusual injury, take the child to a medical care provider immediately. For instance, if you receive your child back with a scalded bottom, a “bizarre rash” that you cannot explain, or bruises all over their bodies supposedly from some “fall” or “trip”, the immediately take the child to an emergency room to have it documented. Insist that the injuries be photographed for documentation purposes.

If you do not do this, preferring to ask for an explanation from a liar which may never be forthcoming or be yet another lie, and later figure out that the child is likely being abused or neglected and then try to raise it as an issue, you are in for a rude awakening. What will likely happen is that you will be falsely blamed and accused of child abuse. Mentally ill parents are often capable of lying convincingly to government social workers and police officers. The mentally ill parent will lie about the cause, and CPS and the police will take the side of the abusive and/or neglectful parent, especially if that parent is a female. It may cost you the custody of your children and even their lives. That your children continue to get numerous burns, bruises, and other injuries while they have no contact with you won’t dissuade the government from their biased position.

Medically Abusive Parents May Commit Parental Alienation

If the children are old enough to be verbal, an abusive parent may even train children to lie for them or at least help cover up the child abuse. They often use threats that if the children tell of the abuse they will be taken away and never see their abusing parent again. Not only are the children being physically abused, they are almost certainly being emotionally and/or verbally abused. Given how personality disorders and child abuse are often involving in lying about medical care, it should come as no surprise that such abusive parents are also likely to commit emotional abuse in the form of parental alienation against the children.

Some Mentally Ill Parents Are Driven By Fear, Not Malice

But not all cases of medical care lying involving direct child abuse or neglect or attempts to frame the other parent. If the mentally ill parent is not trying to frame you for a crime and isn’t clearly abusing a child and trying to cover it up, then why does dishonesty about medical care start in the first place? It may be that if the person’s problems started early in life, the arrival of children terrifies the parent. Perhaps he or she is trying to “hide” from fears of becoming an abusive parent or simply lacks adequate parenting skills given poor parental role models who may have abused and/or neglected him or her. Or perhaps the fear grows strong when the children reach a certain age, possibly close to the age at which the former child who is now a parent was abused himself or herself. The mentally ill parent may want with all her or his heart to be a “good mother” or “good father” and errantly thinks that normal childhood illnesses and injuries somehow make this not so. So she or he will lie to cover them up, perhaps causing even more damage.

Find Objective Medical Care Providers, Consider Supervised Visitations

Whatever the cause, a co-parent dealing with a parent who is incapable of telling the truth and responsibly communicating about medical care information is in a precarious situation. The results can range from minor things like a cold that lasts longer than it should to the truly tragic, such as a child who is killed because of discontinuation of antibiotics due to a refusal of the mentally ill parent to pass along the required information and medicine.

What can the mentally well parent do to deal with this disastrous situation? As mentioned, getting a child psychotherapist involved early and 3rd party medical doctors involved every time mysterious injuries or illnesses occur is a good first step. But this isn’t enough.

There are safeguards that can be built into a co-parenting situation fraught with dangers like these. One is to get informed cooperation from regular medical care providers. This may be easier said than done, for the abusive parent may go to a great effort to malign and falsely portray the responsible parent as being a liar, abuser, or some other danger to the children. It may be necessary to get court orders stripping the problem parent of legal custody for medical care purposes. However, such a step is problematic because it may even affect what must be done regarding physical custody and contact. Unless a parent presents an immediate danger to a child, there are a lot of downsides to the child from severely restricting or eliminating access to a parent. Generally at least some level of supervised contact should be possible in nearly all cases. Sometimes the only way to do this is with expensive professional supervision. Other times, perhaps it can be done with unpaid informal supervision if you can find a reliable adult who is familiar with the mental health problems and the impact they have on childcare and is willing to commit to making sure the children will get adequate medical care and that necessary information will be communicated to the parents, doctors, schools, and others that may need to know.

Child “Protective” Services Are Often Worse Than Useless

First, you must consider how severe the problem is. If the ill parent is incapable of even getting emergency medical care for an accident, then perhaps it is necessary to curtail the legal and physical custody of the ill parent. You are likely to get zero help with this from CPS or the police, especially if you are male. They may tell you that they won’t do a thing until the children are hospitalized or dead from the alleged abuse. Multiple CPS social workers in the state of California have said such outrageous statements. It is likely to be similar elsewhere in the United States.

What the biased and irresponsible CPS social workers usually mean is that if you are a female, you’d have to kill or hospitalize a child to get in trouble with them. If you are male, the same standards do not apply. Fathers may have their custody and/or contact with their children terminated merely because the abusive mother become upset and complained to CPS. CPS may falsely blame you for escalating the conflict in a child custody dispute and take the side of the mother. They may refuse to investigate even credible reports of child abuse while in the mother’s custody. You’re likely going to need a good family lawyer, expert witnesses, and a lot of money to fix a problem like this.

Parenting Coordinators May Help Resolve Medical Mishandling and Neglect

While you are waiting for the insanely slow “progress” of the family law courts and/or are being abused and harassed by CPS, you should be looking into getting a neutral 3rd party parenting coordinator. You should look to make the mentally ill parent (and yourself, too) accountable to the parenting coordinator for providing timely, accurate, and responsible information on the children’s medical care, schooling, and other issues concerning them. The parenting coordinator is far less likely to get blamed wrongly by the government, and such a person may actually be able to get some cooperation from your mentally ill co-parent. If not, they are likely going to be able to document the lack of cooperation and honesty. This will be an important part of establishing that the mentally ill co-parent is not capable of protecting the interests of the children and their health and safety.

Without such proof and evidence, you are stuck in a “he said, she said” game. For fathers, this is particularly bad because the family law courts, law enforcement, and child protection agencies in Western nations such as the US, UK, Canada, and Australia are nearly always biased against fathers. For better or worse, mothers are not likely to encounter anti-mother bias in these sexist nations. But in other sexist nations with frequent anti-female bias, for instance Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other Muslim nations, mothers there may find themselves in similarly dire problems as the fathers in Western nations.

Children Are Victims, Reform Is Needed

Ultimately, the children are the ones who suffer most from these broken courts and laws and mental health care policies. Fixing this mess is going to require a major overhaul of the laws, policies, and courts as they pertain to children and family issues such as divorce and child custody determination.

Further reading

Commentary: Getting at the Truth about Pathological Lying

Pseudologia fantastica

Factitious Disorder

Münchausen syndrome by proxy

Child Abuse & Neglect: Dissociative Identity Disorder

Mothers Who Hurt Their Children

Fathers Who Hurt Their Children


DR. MARC FELDMAN’S Munchausen Syndrome, Malingering, Factitious Disorder, & Munchausen by Proxy Page

Münchausen by Internet: Faking Illness Online

AAPEL: Borderline Personality Disorder and Lying

AAPEL: Summary of Borderline Personality Disorder

The Last Psychiatrist: Borderline

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